How Exactly Is Uber "Disrupting" an Industry?


“For the first time in 30 years, New Yorkers could get a cab without going to the street and putting your arm out,” startup Uber wrote yesterday, in the course of admitting they are shutting down their NYC pilot program. (Also, this is only true if you mean yellow cabs; in most of the City, people been calling for car services their whole lives.) Don’t worry, you can use Uber in “more innovation-friendly cities,” they snidely sign off. (Cue Mike Bloomberg breaking a lamp and vowing revenge.) Yes, the INNOVATORS—with $50 million in venture capital—have met the “obsolete cash cow” and the long arm of “regulation.” What will become of “the cause”? Hey wait, what “cause” is this? I’m not a huge fan of the Taxi and Limousine Commission, but this is not a particularly good time in the history of the world to be against regulation. (Airlines; banking; prisons; hospitals; oh, “the environment.) If you want to “disrupt” the taxi industry in New York, you could maybe take up as a “cause” that livery drivers went on strike the other week because they’re being treated like garbage by NYC 2-Way, the company that rents them out to the likes of Goldman Sachs. Will “being able to get a cab from your iPhone” improve taxi drivers’ lives? “MAYBE,” agrees the taxi drivers union. Would actually disrupting the actual industry actually improve their lives? For sure. For $50 million, you could open a lot of cab companies in a lot of cities and treat drivers well. But this isn’t about actual industry disruption: it’s about disrupting the customer experience, and then about Uber making money. A fine American principle! But let’s not be confused that they’re disrupting on behalf of anything other than a business model.